On December 7th, the US Navy chaplain corps memorialized two chaplains who died in the line of duty during the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Chaplain (CAPT) Leroy Kirkpatrick, aboard the USS Arizona, became the first Navy chaplain to die in what became known as World War II. Chaplain (Lt) Aloysius Schmitt, aboard the USS Oklahoma, was the first Roman Catholic chaplain killed in the war.
Few may realize that two years later the US Navy launched the USS Schmitt (DE-676) and the USS Kirkpatrick (DE-318), two of only seven US Navy warships named after chaplains.
Precisely 70 years ago the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. It was the beginning of four long years of American involvement in the war that had already engulfed the rest of the world for some years.
A surprise attack by Japan on the Hawaiian Islands (which were not yet the 50th state) awoke the “sleeping giant” 69 years ago today, bringing the United States into World War II. Millions had already perished in a war that had consumed the world, though the US had largely stood by. They would do so no longer, and the world would be better for it.
The United States did not engage in war in the 1940s merely to avenge an attack or remove a threat. It sought a decisive and just end to conflict in uncompromising terms – it defended an “absolute right” in the face of a continuing wrong.
Those who recall the date that “lives in infamy” are becoming fewer in number.
As an aside, it is interesting to note the attack on Pearl Harbor lasted approximately 2 hours, and resulted in 15 Medals of Honor — 5 to living recipients — among other citations. By contrast, the 9-year conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in 4, one to a living recipient.
December 7, 2009, marks 68 years since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the United States into what was already the second World War. While Remembrance Day is an annual event (see the Presidential declaration), memories of Pearl Harbor have been more vivid since what some have implied was the 21st Century Pearl Harbor: the terrorist attack on the US on 11 September 2001.